Harmlosigkeit und Niedlichkeit bieten weiterhin ein optimales Deckmäntelchen für Weirdo-Anspielungen und kulturelle Aneignung – und die nach wie vor nicht gerade geringe Anfeindung gegen CocoRosie ist Beweis genug, dass auch Menschen, die weniger zwischen den Zeilen zu lesen fähig sind, sich brüskiert oder gar in ihrer Geschlechterrolle bedroht fühlen.
Im Vergleich zu 2004, dem Veröffentlichungsjahr ihres Debütalbums, positionieren sich die Schwestern inzwischen deutlicher auf der feministischen Seite, was sich unter anderem in Bianca Casadys Mitarbeit am Magazin Girls Against God manifestiert. Die Metaphorik ihrer Lyrics bewegt sich aber in einer schwurbeligen Grauzone zwischen Ernsthaftigkeit und eindeutigem too much: »Even though red is not your color / I’ll dress you in feathers / And fly you in the windy weather / Like a child bird marooned / On an island of cats.«
This is more than apparent as soon as Heartache City begins with the delicate “Forget Me Not”. The track ushers in the album with a cacophony of creaks and the sound of wind up toys high in the mix. This playful kinetic energy is typical of CocoRosie’s aesthetic, and is built upon with tightly constructed beats and spacious chimes. Bianca Casady’s pitched, spoken word delivery makes the whole ensemble come across like a piece of Fisher Price hip hop.
“Un Beso”, which the band dropped a live version of a couple of months ago, is given a spit and polish treatment on Heartache City. The minimal organ disco beats are kept loose and raggedy and the skeletal refrain drives the track along with a haunting effervescence. The duo’s recent time spent in Buenos Aires has clearly soaked into their collective consciousness and the track has an underlying tropical feel with flutters of Latino percussion and brass, shuffling just below the surface like a miniature street party.
The most compelling thing about “Un Beso” has to be Bianca Casady’s wildly bizarre and sexualised lyrics “I’m out shopping in my commune / Finger fucking the fireflies / Spying on the masturbating snails / Hollyhock and cat tails”. Whichever supermarket she buys her groceries from, I’m betting it’s not her local Tesco Metro.
“Heartache City” jitters with skiffle hand claps and bustles with so much nocturnal energy, listening to it is like being transported straight into a smoke filled whiskey juke joint. But in the world of CocoRosie the environment retains a constant cloud of surrealism that, once inhaled, is hard to come down from.
CocoRosie had no problem in revelling in the art of narrative storytelling in their earlier material, and they revisit this heavily over the course of Heartache City, not least in “Tim and Tina”. The tragicomic story of two less than star-crossed lovers is recounted over an oblique landscape of twisted samples and loops, delivered as though the Casady sisters are rummaging around in a sonic sand box and constantly digging up gold.
Things are brought full circle by the time album closer “No One Knows” comes around. The track is held together with those familiar creaks of toy instruments and a slew of scrappily charming percussion. But, as ever, the Casady’s slick vocal harmonies temper the craziness and transform the track into an off-kilter lullaby of schizophrenic vocal acrobatics.
Heartache City has much more in common with the band’s first two albums, the freakiness of their folk here is undeniable, but the tracks all share a strong backbone of hip hop and afro-beat which elevates them above the streamlined pop melee.
Simply put, we need more bands like CocoRosie who are ready and willing to invert the concept of pop music and present the results to us, in all their twisted glory.